Alyosha Popovich

Alyosha Popovich ( _ru. Алёша Попо́вич, literally Alexey, son of the priest), alongside Dobrynya Nikitich and Ilya Muromets, is a bogatyr (i.e., a medieval knight-errant). He is the youngest of the 3 main bogatyrs of Kiev Rus.

The three of them are represented together at Vasnetsov's famous painting "Bogatyrs".

In Byliny (oral stories) he is described as a crafty priest's son who wins by tricking and outsmarting his foes. He is known for his agility, slyness, and craftiness. Alyosha Popovich is fun-loving, sometimes being depicted as a "mocker of women," and may occasionally be a liar and a cheat (Bailey, p. 121). He defeated the dragon Tugarin Zmeyevich by trickery. In later versions the dragon was transformed into the figure of a Mongol Khan.

Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin

In this bylina Alyosha Popovich and his servant, Yekim, set out for Kiev to meet Prince Vladimir. When they arrive at Kiev, Prince Vladimir is having a feast. Prince Vladimir offers Alyosha Popovich to sit next to him, but Alyosha Popovich refuses and decides to take the lowest place in the social hierarchy by sitting next to the stove (Bailey, p. 121-122). At the feast, the monster Tugarin insults the Prince by sitting between Vladimir and his wife. Tugarin also does not pray to God and gorges himself at the feast. Alyosha Popovich, who is disgusted with the way Tugarin is acting, insults the creature with stories about the deaths of a dog and a cow (Bailey, p. 122). Tugarin is provoked by these stories and throws a dagger at Alyosha Popovich. Then, Alyosha Popovich accepts Tugarin's challenge to fight. The battle takes place in an open field, and when Alyosha Popovich arrives, Tugarin is already flying in the sky on his wings made of paper. Alyosha Popovich prays for rain, and Tugarin falls to the ground because his paper wings get wet. Finally, Alyosha Popovich knocks Tugarin's head off with his staff, sticks it on a spear, cuts his body into small pieces, and presents it to Prince Vladimir's court. (Bailey, p. 122-129).


* Bailey, James and Ivanova, Tatyana. An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics. M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Armonk, New York, 1998.

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